TV REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: "The Oath" (Season 4, Episode 13)

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Philip K. Dick once said that "Things show their true nature by how they decay." If that's the case, the people and society of Galactica is shown to have been pretty vile all along, based on what we've seen in these last three episodes. But back to this in a minute. More immediately: Wow!

Now that was a hell of an episode. Fan reaction has seemed pretty weak on the last two episodes, but I liked 'em myself. This one should be more of a crowd-pleaser, though, I think.

After making secret bargains with Zarek last week, and spreading dissention among the ranks, this week Felix Gaeda brings a full-on mutiny. First he and some conspiring minor recurring characters spring Zarek from the brig, and spirit him away to the landing bay. There they stage an accident to clear out the lookey-loos, but Cheif Laird thinks something is up, so Zarek kills him with a wrench. Gaeda takes charge and argues the murderous vice president in to a shuttle, then goes to the bridge and to cover for the unscheduled raptor departure, doing a lot of lying to Mister Hoshi, his...uhm...I guess he's probably his ex-boyfriend now, huh? Certainly I don't think a night of dancing to old Erasure CDs is gonna' fix this.

Back on Colonial One, Zarek takes charge, completely pulling the wind out of occasional president pro-tem Apollo's sails. Confused, and manipulated by Zarek, Apollo heads back to the Galactica to find out why his dad let the bastard out.

Gaeda, meanwhile, has been staging various fires and crises on the Galactica to cover the machinations of his confederates, and is surrepticiously keeping Adama cut off from all communitations until he springs the old "Relieving you of command" saw on him. A firefight ensues, and Tigh and Adama are taken prisoner. They escape en rout, of course. All the Cylons on the Galactica, excepting Tyrol, have been captured and put in the brig, along with Hera and Helo.

Apollo is greeted by a welcoming party of more recurring characters who sucker punch him and take him captive until a heavily-armed Starbuck turns up and starts shooting people. (You know, I was as put off by Starbuck rolling around on the floor screaming "We're going the wrong way" as anyone else, but I didn't really miss the gun toting crazy-assed starbuck until this moment. It was nice to see her again!) they escape, and get to the presidents' quarters (Which are also the Admiral's quarters, hubba hubba), and get her away from there.

Explaining Zarek's attempted coup d'etat to her, Roslin *Finally* snaps to her senses, and agrees to get back in the game. They head to Baltar's Cult Headquarters to use his illegal wireless to address the fleet before Gaeda jams the signal. Tyrol has loyal men communicating to him by walkie talkie, and has a good grasp of the situation. Everyone makes their way to a mostly-forgotten auxiliary storage airlock to rendezvous with a loyal Raptor, and spirit the president, Baltar, and anyone else away. Tigh and Adama stay behind to hold off the mutineers trying to prevent this. The Raptor heads for the Rebel Base Ship, while the mutineers crack the hatch to the airlock and throw in a grenade...

To Be Continued.

There was a lot of great stuff in here. Why did Adama seem in so much pain when he fell over on the bridge during the firefight? Does this have something to do with the pills he's been popping on and off? Either way, Adama seems to have forgiven Tigh for the accident of his Cylon Birth, and again seems to trust him implicitly. The scene of gun-toting geriatric senior staff striding the halls shooting and otherwise ass-kicking was pretty cool, frankly.

It was nice to see Roslin get back to not thinking about herself. I like that she was a couple steps ahead of Apollo both intellectually and physically through this episode.

They mention that Helo is now CAG. While that's cool and all, isn't Starbuck senior to him in every way? Shouldn't she have the job? Shouldn't she be a major by now?

Remember when Gaeda stabbed Baltar in the neck a while back? The secret incident that caused that was explained in the "Face of the Enemy" webisodes (Which I have yet to review - sorry. I've had computer troubles out the Ying Yang this week), and it makes yet another appearance here.

Everything in this episode is stuff that we've seen before, but it's all variations on a theme that make it all kind of new and unlike anything we've seen before, if that makes sense. Zarek escapes from prison much the way Roslin did in season 2, but when it was dashing and heroic then, it's disturbing and wrong now. Some of the same people were even involved in both escapes. The scenes of firefights on the Galactica are much like the ones from when the Cylons got a boarding party on the ship in season 2, but, again, this time it's humans fighting humans, so the whole thing comes off as horribly confused and wrong. We've seen the Civilian vs. Military tension before, even fighting, but this time out it's clearly the Civilians who are in the wrong. It's all a mess. Everything old is new again, but in a very, very bad way. Even the reappearance of the brig, where most of our major Cylons have spent time was an oddly poignient reunion.

Man, it's like every minor recurring character from the run of the show turned up here - Laird, Seelix (Who does Anders very, very wrong), Baltar's Angels, the creepy rapist dude from the Pegasus, various minor recurring fighter pilots like Racetrack - and most seem to be on Zarek's side. As Apollo points out, the reason this rebellion is being so successful is that Zarek isn't entirely wrong: The notion that the Cylons would want to play nice after slaughtering 50 Billion people is bound to stick in some folk's craws. The Adama/Roslin leadership has had them chasing a fool's errand for five years. People are burned out and despirited and disgusted and frankly out for blood.

So how badly is Helo hurt? God help those mutineers if he dies, Athena *will* be avenging herself on them.

I have to say, I'm impressed by both Gaeda and the actor who plays him. Gay or Straight (And according to Face of the Enemy, Gaeda is at least technically Bisexual), the man is a credible force as a pissed off bad guy seeking absolution for his own failings. A lot off the more liberal SF websites have taken umbrage at the fact that the show's only openly gay character (Is he? Openly gay? I mean, they waited until a month ago to mention it, and they've made it clear he's slept with at least one chick.) is the bad guy here. The Pink Raygun site in particular is up in arms over this, saying that since he's gay the show made him 'less of a man' by shooting off his leg, and then immediately had him become the bad guy simply because he's gay.

No big surprise, but I think they're missing the point: The last several episodes have been about things falling apart. These people have been on the run for half a decade, they're living off of algae, they're tired, pissed off, cramped, bedraggled, beaten down, persued, beplagued, confused, smelly, and to make matters worse, they've lost the only thing that kept them going: their hope.

Faith is gone. Hope is gone. Earth is a boondoggle. Adama is a fool. Roslin is a fool. Baltar is a crank. the people you trusted are the enemy. There is nothing left to believe in, and all is lost. Dee killed herself. Billy died for nothing.

the last three episodes, and the webisode, are all about watching these people fall apart. Gaeda is not falling apart because he's gay or whatever, he's falling apart because he's been pushed beyond his limits, and had his leg blown off by a frakin' toaster. He's not a bad guy because he's a sexual deviant (Though certainly that's not helping matters any), he's *Become* a bad guy because of his loss of faith. He's snapped. Saying he's been made into the villain because he's gay is like saying that Roslin has been made into a villain - and certainly he's done villainous stuff on occasion - simply because he's a white dude. That's just nonsense. (And neither here nor there, but saying anyone is "Less of a man" because he lost his leg is a massive, massive insult to both cripples and men in general. But then this is indicitve of the reactionary and muddy liberal thinking on Pink Raygun, and that's why we on Republibot are here: To provide an alternative. Let us speak of them no more)

Drama is all about the human heart at war with itself, and we're seeing lots of that. These people have all snapped. The question is if they can recover. For Adama and Starbuck and Roslin, a clear and present danger seems to have snapped them back to their senses. For Gaeda, a desire to make up for the horrible, horrible thing he got roped into on New Caprica is causing him to make bad choices, and thow away the love of a good man, or at least Hoshi. Gay or Straight or whatever, clearly that's a bad move. Throw away your hope of a happy future out of guilt over complicit guilt in the past?

No, Gaeda is a bad guy ironically because he's seeking to be good, and he's lost the faith in his superiors. He is also a damn good enemy, the best one Adama has ever faced: He's led a successful mutiny and a coup simultaneously, which is something no one else has managed. His manipulation of The Old Man was brilliant, and his plan was very efficient. I particularly liked how quickly he adapted to changing situations that threatened to undo his plot before he'd quite pulled it off. His decision to kill Roslin at the end off the ep is clearly calculated, but look at his face when he give the order: he's fully aware that his actions at that point cost him his soul. And he does it anyway.

Using him was brilliant, frankly. One of the more ubiquitious minor characters, and one of the more likeable and intelligent, always fiercely loyal to Adama, seeing him turn was far, far, far more heartbreaking than if they'd brought in a new villain of the week, or had someone else betray The Old Man. The betrayal feels real and raw. Adama looses it and screams. This is the punch in the gut that no one saw coming, the internal adversary that hurts more than the loss of their world because it goes straight to the heart. It's brilliant. If I have any misgivings about the whole issue, or how it's played, it's simply that making Gaeda gay seems kind of irrelevant and confuses stuff for the slower-witted viewers in the audience, as we've seen elsewhere online. Pitty them, sitting around the TV right now, re-watching the episode with furrowed brow, trying vainly to shoehorn what they see here in to their vacuformed political ideologies, when, in fact, it's just a bunch of people in goofy clothes shooting at each other.

Tying Philip Dick in with the nature of Drama, I guess we could say that the Human Heart shows it's true nature by how it falls apart. In Gaeda's case, it reveals itself to be a black and vile place. In Dee's case, it reveals itself to have been held together only by the tiniest flutter of hope. In the case of Adama, it appears to be the kind of thing that keeps going simply because the only alternative is to do nothing, and they'll be damned if they're just going to sit around on their hands while people are suffering and dying.